Music and Humanism in the Aga Khan Humanities Project

Music and Humanism in the Aga Khan Humanities Project_image.pngDr John Morgan O’Connell

I founded the program in Ethnomusicology at Cardiff University. I am a graduate of Oxford University, the Guildhall School of Music and the University of California (Los Angeles) where I completed my PhD in Ethnomusicology on Turkish music. My publications concern in principle the musical traditions of the Muslim world, with a specialist interest in the areas of music and conflict, and music in application. In addition, I have been a music consultant for a number of international organizations in Central Asia and East Africa. Further, I have organized many international colloquia and I am on the editorial boards of different international publishers.

Excerpt from “Music and Humanism in the Aga Khan Humanities Project” at p. 608:

The second was my encounter with the musical traditions of Central Asia. Here Rafique Keshavjee of the Aga Khan Humanities Project was an important inspiration. …[M]y meeting with Keshavjee was accidental.  At a conference in Florida, we literally bumped into each other. At the time he was promoting his project in humanities that was based in Dushanbe(Tajikistan). Since he had heard my presentation on a hermeneutic approach to musical instruction in Turkey, he was interested in discussing my wider interests in music and humanism.  At first, I was circumspect. However Keshavjee needed a music specialist to supplement his team of academic advisors, scholars who were especially selected to supervise and to design a humanities curriculum. Since music was going to be a key component in this endeavor, … I would be in an ideal position to fill an important lacuna. How could I refuse his invitation?

This was my first time in Central Asia.

This chapter concerns the relationship between music and humanism in an educational program in Central Asia, the Aga Khan Humanities Project. Addressing the central principles of tolerance and empathy in applied ethnomusicology, it presents an alternative conception of humanism, a religious humanism that is unique to an esoteric branch of Islam, Ismaʿilism. In this context, it interrogates the eclectic character of the current research in applied ethnomusicology, and it offers a theoretical and methodological solution to disciplinary fragmentation. By emphasizing the significance of expressive culture for uncovering a shared humanity, the chapter also examines the humanistic value and the humane potential of music with respect to an applied venture (a humanitarian project) and a research endeavor (a “humaneistic” undertaking) to highlight the symbiotic relationship between the “applied” and the “pure” in ethnomusicology. In short, the chapter seeks to recover the status of theoretical discourse and scholarly inquiry in applied ethnomusicology. and and


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Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

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